How to Navigate an Argument


This isn’t a guide on how to win an argument, but more on how to navigate an argument. This is simply because we are not going to win every single argument we partake in. If we only ever win arguments, it would lead to very closed mindsets and little personal growth. However, it is sad to put a very good point to waste because of poor argumentative skills. So here are seven tips to help you win, or at least to help you successfully navigate, your next argument.

Firstly, avoid absolute language. Absolute language consists of words like: always, never, all, none, every, only. Absolute language can make opposing points very quick to dismiss. At the same time, the argument can get sidetracked on the specifics when the notion you are presenting is not absolute.

Use evidence – such as factual numbers. While humans are empathetic learners, sometimes we need quantifiable evidence for us to fully grasp a concept. Numbers and facts are harder to argue against as they are… facts!

Use silence to your advantage. People tend to feel that silence is something that needs to be filled up and avoided at all costs. But silence is a very powerful tool. This can count as a long pause before making your point or an elongated breath in between a sentence. By doing this, you can appear more engaged and thoughtful throughout the argument. 

Avoid raising your voice. The intonation and projection of your voice plays a big role in how the other person will react. Once you raise your voice and start yelling, the person you are arguing with will become much more defensive and the argument will escalate. Discussions are supposed to be civil. In addition to keeping your voice calm, avoid explicit language. By using informal language such as swear words, you may seem less intelligent and less sure of your argument.

Context. It is also important to take into consideration the factors of your opponent, such as age. For the most part, the older the person you are arguing with, the more stubborn they will be in their beliefs. The language you are using should reflect your opponent’s age and level of understanding of the topic. For example, if arguing with an older person, a good approach is to not be abrasive and to ask them to explain their logic behind their argument. While younger opponents’ stances are more malleable. 

No matter how angry you are, never verbally attack someone. This is also known as Ad hominem logical fallacy, which is when you attack the person’s traits to undermine their argument. This is a very harmful strategy which sidetracks the entire argument. This can also ruin your relationship with the person you are arguing with.

Lastly, be kind and empathetic. People hold on to certain beliefs close to their hearts for reasons deeper than you may know. Recognize the influence that cultures and societies have on peoples’ beliefs. It is important to understand that change takes time. Conflicts might only be resolved after repeated discussions, or they may never be resolved at all. 

You might not be able to change someone’s opinion within one discussion, however, by using the right tactics, you might be able to present a strong case and at least bring them to reevaluate their beliefs.